top of page

Exams and Long Covid: What you need to know about supporting a child with Long Covid through exams.

Updated: Feb 6

Exams… whatever you think about them, they are a part of the current education system and part of our children’s lives. Living with the symptoms of Long Covid can make accessing the subject content, revising and sitting exams extremely difficult. This blog aims to support parents in understanding and accessing appropriate support for their child with Long Covid.

Long Covid Kids. Dr Sue Peters. Exams

What do I need to know

Whether it be mocks or the real things, GCSE’s, Btecs, A-Levels, or equivalents, exams can be a frequently asked topic in the Long Covid Kids Support Services. Frequently asked questions include:

  • What support for exams is my child entitled to?

  • How do I get support for exams in place?

  • What if there is a problem on the day of the exam?

  • Is there any flexibility around the start time?

  • I’ve been told there is a maximum time for rest breaks, is this true?

  • Can my child sit their exams at home?

  • Do I need an Educational Psychology assessment to get extra time?

  • Should my child be dropping a GCSE or two?

What do I Need to Know?

Access Arrangements

Access Arrangements are pre-examination adjustments for candidates based on evidence of need and the child’s normal way of working. Some Access Arrangements are agreed by the school and others require approval from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JVQ).

They are defined as:

‘Access Arrangements allow candidates/learners with special educational needs, disabilities or temporary injuries to access the assessment without changing the demands of the assessment. For example, readers, scribes and Braille question papers. In this way Awarding Bodies will comply with the duty of the Equality Act 2010 to make ‘reasonable adjustments’.’

The legal requirement to make such adjustments arises under the Equality Act 2010. In order for this to apply, the law says that the child must have an ‘impairment which has substantial and long-term adverse effects, giving rise to persistent and significant difficulties'​

Depending on their symptoms and the impact of these on their ability to function in exam conditions, children with Long Covid can be entitled to access some of these arrangements.

Parents of children with Long Covid in exam years, told us that their child was able to receive the following access arrangements or special considerations (Long Covid Kids Educational Experiences and Attendance Survey, 2023).

  • Rest breaks 71%​

  • Smaller or separate room 58%​

  • Extra time 57%​

  • Special Considerations after an exam 22%​

  • Exams spread out or moved 16%​

  • Later start 14%​

  • Sat exams at home 11%​

  • Reader 11%​

  • Scribe 4%​

School staff decide whether access arrangements are needed according to the guidance set out by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ). For each type of access arrangement, the JCQ outlines the evidence that the school must provide for the child to qualify for that type of support. The JCQ inspects schools to check that the evidence requirements are strictly followed. The school will need to gather the necessary evidence from subject teachers and others (such as parents, the pupil, and any other staff and external professionals involved). The school will often carry out assessments of reading, spelling, comprehension, writing or processing speed. Documents such as an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or a report from a professional such as an educational psychologist or paediatrician may be supportive but do not automatically entitle a pupil to access arrangements without additional evidence from the school. Every year the JCQ publishes guidance on the arrangements for public examinations. Please see the JCQ guidance on Access Arrangements, Reasonable Adjustments and Special Consideration for the current year as well as the specific exam board’s guidance for each subject your child is taking an exam with.

Key points to note:

  • Get access arrangements agreed and in place at least the year before the actual exams and for any mock exams ​so that the child is used to them and this becomes their usual way of working.

  • Get as much supporting evidence from the school (e.g., whether they have needed and used extra time before, ask them to assess their speed of processing etc.) and other professionals as possible. Ask medical professionals to specifically outline how their physical symptoms will affect their energy, thinking, processing, concentration, planning, fatigue, writing, etc., and the support they will require.

  • There is no limit on rest breaks

  • As soon as you get the exam timetable, check for timings and clashes. If there is a clash of exams, you can request a later start or for the exam to take place the subsequent day.

  • Speak to the exams officer at the school, as they are most likely to be familiar and up to date with the JCQ guidance and will know what can be done.

Long Covid Kids. Dr Sue Peters. Exams

Special Considerations

Special Considerations are an adjustment to a candidate’s mark or grade made after the exam has taken place to reflect a temporary injury, illness or other ‘indisposition’ at the time of the examination/assessment. This can include a temporary worsening of Long Covid symptoms caused by the exam series.

Key points to note:

  • It can’t be used for a long-term illness but can be used if the illness is exacerbated in the short-term by other factors​.

  • There is the potential for the addition of up to 5% of the raw mark (but 5% is for the terminal illness of a candidate/ parent or death of immediate family member)​

  • This needs evidence on the day, e.g. a Dr's note​, which you may have to pay for.

  • If your child is unwell on the day and misses a paper due to illness but they have completed 15%/ 25% of that subject, they can have their 'terminal grade' adjusted based on the paper(s) they have sat.

Advice from Parents in the Long Covid Kids Support Services

Several parents of children with Long Covid have offered the following advice for other parents based on their experiences:

Parent 1

‘We are currently going through the GCSEs with our Long Covid daughter. I just wanted to give some advice to those doing GCSEs in future years.

Spend the next year getting as much evidence/medical letters as possible to support whatever access arrangements you may require (extra time, rest breaks, scribes, delayed start time, smaller exam room, exams at home etc etc). Then when you submit it all to the school/exam centre make sure you do it in plenty of time and have a letter back confirming all the requirements. Even when they say something isn’t possible, it’s still worth pushing for it as it’s amazing what they can do when you have strong medical backing’.

Parent 2

‘My daughter had an invigilator at home. She went from bed to chair to bed which saved so much energy and really helped her get the best possible results without having to leave the house. The school organised and funded this, so ask now. She was able to start later and have rest breaks. She didn't have to waste energy on getting dressed, travel or have the hullabaloo of exam nerves/ excitement etc with a large group of peers.

Even with this option, she still had to miss one English exam (despite having dropped other subjects). Because she had completed one paper, they took an average for her final result'.

Parent 3

‘My daughter sat her GCSE’s last year. It was a really difficult few months as she was barely able to revise and had missed some key exam content. We got the access arrangements sorted out with the school before the mocks and she got used to using them (at first she was reluctant as she didn’t want to look different). She managed to sit all of her exams (not sure how she did it!) and used extra time and rest breaks to get through them. She was also in a smaller hall which supported her to use her access arrangements and not feel too ‘different’. When we got her exam timetable, we realised she was due to have 3 exams in one day (one in the morning and two in the afternoon). The school initially wanted her to sit all 3 in one day with one squeezed in over lunchtime (so much for pacing!), but we were able to persuade them (due to the cumulative time of the two exams) to move the third to the next morning (it was a Saturday!). We had to sign an agreement that she would not access social media or contact her friends and took some chocolates in for the school staff who had to open up the school and sit in the room with her on a Saturday morning! Her Long Covid symptoms definitely got worse and worse as the exams went on and we were able to get a doctor’s note and apply for Special Considerations for one exam just before the half term break where she felt even worse than usual'.

Parent 4

'We had a later start time of 11am for GCSE's last summer. The exams were sat at home with an invigilator. School were very supportive and applied to the exam board for access arrangements. We had a supporting medical letter from the Long Covid clinic stating specifically what was required. There was no access to TV, radio, phones or other devices from 9am (the official exam start time)'.

Parent 5

'Our son had a late start time of 11am and only did the core subjects. The exam board agreed to this as we could prove that he normally starts school at 11am. We had to sign a form that we would supervise him and he would have no access to tech or internet. He also had rest breaks'.

Parent 6

‘Dropping subjects is, in my opinion, crucial. It’s such a hard decision to make but it frees up head space, energy and emotions immediately. It enabled my daughter to focus on the core subjects and get them over the line.

Her mental health improved as soon as we took away that pressure and we had a conversation about all the options to study in the future when she feels better.

We have no regrets about dropping the subjects at all’.

Parent 7

‘I know there are several parents here who are probably feeling quite stressed and worried (as I am) about the imminent GCSE and A-level exams.

Please look after yourselves too - try to have some unstressed, quiet time listening to music or nidra yoga, even if it’s just for 15-20 minutes a day.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Sending a big hug to all of you.’


Support for Exams

  • The ME Association. Examinations and ME/CFS:

  • Well At School. Managing Exams:

  • Action for ME. Exams for Pupils with ME:

  • Not Fine in School. Exams, Information, Study:

  • IPSEA. Help in Exams:

including a model letter to ask your school for help here:

  • Disability Rights UK:

Managing Exam Stress

And a Reminder for Your Child

You are so much more than your grades, they don't define you or what you are capable of and they don't predict your future. Everyone does not need to follow the same path, there's a path out there for everyone. Be proud of everything you have achieved, what you have coped with and how far you have come.

Blog written by:

Long Covid Kids: Dr Sue Peters, Educational Psychologist

Dr Sue Peters

LCK Education Team Lead and Educational Psychologist

29th August 2023

(Updated 6th February 2024)


Support Our Work

While children are living with life-changing symptoms and families struggle to seek appropriate support, we need to be here.

Your donation will be used directly to support families living with Long Covid.

Find out more about our Impact.

bottom of page